Rosa Parks Archives Off-Limits to Scholars

Photo: The Rosa Parks archive. Credit: Guernsey’s Auctioneers.


Julian Bond and Jeanne Theoharis have a piece in the Washington Post’s opinion pages tracing the troubled history of Rosa Parks’ archives.

Parks’ papers and other items have been caught in a legal dispute between her relatives and the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development. Guernsey’s Auctioneers was awarded custody of the material by a probate judge and ordered to sell it to a single buyer with various claimants dividing the proceeds. As the material languishes in legal limbo (apparently every library wants it but none can afford it), scholars are denied access to Parks’ material.

Bond and Theoharis write:

It is unthinkable that a collection of Thomas Jefferson’s or Martin Luther King Jr.’s papers could be locked away for four years, let alone put up for auction without a single scholar being allowed a preliminary view to assess its value to American culture and history. Indeed, scholarly appraisal would be assumed to increase the importance and value of the material. But Rosa Parks has been reduced to a children’s book hero — lauded as the “mother of the civil rights movement,” not treated as a serious political thinker in her own right. Through the hype surrounding the posthumous sale of her possessions, which include her party gowns, glasses and sewing basket, she has been transformed into some sort of celebrity commodity.

The L.A. Daily Mirror and L.A. Crime Beat, freshly sculpted with European craftsmanship by the bots a The bots are leading with TMZ’s “Kim K — Mystery Buyer Wants Sex Tape Off the Market.”  Oh goodie.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in African Americans, History, Libraries and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Rosa Parks Archives Off-Limits to Scholars

  1. Rosa Parks changed my life for the better, without ever meeting her. Such was the power of that little sparrow.


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